It’s hard to overstate the importance of visual content on an ecommerce website. Visual assets like images, videos, and interactive 3D have to do the work that was once done by physical products themselves: by engaging with your site’s visual content, shoppers have to be able to make a decision about whether or not to buy what you’re selling.
Today, we’re in a transitional period for ecommerce. While consumers are spending more and more time on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, ecommerce marketers have struggled to keep pace by making their web assets equally visual – and with good reason. Professional photography is expensive; ecommerce brands would have to see significant increases in sales to enjoy a positive ROI from large-scale photography investments. There are lots of helpful tips on how to think about the ROI of your product images in this guide if that's what you're weighing.
Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to get the most out of your visuals right now. And you can do them without breaking the bank.
1) Optimize the quantity and quality of your visuals
Generally speaking, the concept of “the more the merrier” applies to product imagery in ecommerce:
- Larger photos convert at higher rates than smaller photos. In one study, a 28 percent increase in image size led to a 63 percent increase in conversions. Exact results will vary, but generally, bigger is better.
- Higher-quality images convert better than lower-quality images. A study from 2007 found that shoppers are three times more likely to convert on websites that include high-quality imagery (including the ability to zoom in) than those with lower-quality images. More recently, a study found that higher-quality images helped establish trust among online shoppers.
- Conversion rates rise with the number of images of a product. In a study of thousands of eBay listings, researchers found that going from zero images to one doubled conversion rates, and going from one to two doubled rates again.
These are great as rules of thumb, but the science behind them is important to understand for ecommerce marketers looking to improve website performance.
First, a look at quality. According to that eBay study, shoppers see the quality of product images as a proxy for the quality of the product they’re considering. While high-quality images can shoppers’ attention and improve their confidence, low-quality images can actually do the opposite, causing shoppers to lose trust in your brand.
As for quantity, the eBay study also found that, beyond the two-image mark, adding more images generally leads to higher conversion rates.
So the challenge for ecommerce marketers is to produce many high-quality images of every item in their catalog without grossly exceeding their budget. But before we get to budget-friendly solutions, let’s add another wrinkle.
2) Make it interactive
Once upon a time, it was perfectly acceptable to publish static images of products on an ecommerce site. But as data delivery speeds increase and shoppers get used to more engaging forms of visual content, expectations have shifted.
Today, most shoppers expect to be able to manipulate product imagery on an ecommerce site. They want to zoom in and rotate an image to see a product from various angles. They want to click a new color swatch and instantly see the product in a different shade.
And when they’re able to do these things, they trust brands more. A study published in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising found that the more customers can virtually interact with a product (e.g., by zooming in or rotating), the more they trust its seller.
The ability to exert “graphical control” (e.g., by changing a product’s color) also leads to increased customer trust, which, in turn, can increase conversions.
3) Use virtual photography
The challenge, of course, is creating high-quality visual content at scale without spending so much as to cancel out the benefit of improved conversion rates. Or anyway, that was the challenge in the days when the only option was expensive photo shoots.
Today, ecommerce marketers can tap into the power of virtual photography to generate high-resolution photorealistic images of products from every angle – without ever shipping products to a studio, fussing with lighting, going back and forth with photographers, or otherwise dealing with the hassle of photography.
In fact, because virtual photography generates images from CADs and other information files, you can generate high-quality images for a website before a product has even been manufactured.
That has profound implications for ecommerce marketers. With just a manufacturing file of your products, you can…
- Generate high-resolution images from any angle you want.
- Adjust lighting, backgrounds, and reflections in real time.
- Generate up to 10,000 photos per day.
Within a week, you can have your entire catalog photographed. At the start of a new season, you can update your images in just a couple of days. And because you skip the costs associated with setting up a studio shoot, you’ll only pay about 1/1,000 what you would to achieve the same feat via traditional photography.
When you do this using the Threekit platform, you also have the ability to create other types of visual content, including interactive 3D, which can provide shoppers with the kinds of near-tactile experiences that build trust.
From Nice-to-Have to Need-to-Have
Today, ultra-high-quality product imagery is still a nice-to-have for most ecommerce marketers. It’s like a vitamin: with it, you might notice performance improvements, but without it, you’ll still be okay – kind of like having a website in 1996.
In the coming years, that reality will change. Top-tier visual content will be less like a vitamin and more like medicine: your brand will need it to stay healthy – kind of like a website in 2019.
As you strategize your 2020 budget, be sure to consider the potential ROI of better product imagery. An investment today could let you zip out ahead of your competition for the near future, which will position you to continue leading the pack as your brand evolves.
Curious about how better visual content could boost your conversions? Set up a demo and we’ll show you!